Bierhoff calls on Germany to improve conversion rate

Germany v Serbia; Today, 12.30pm, BBC1
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The Independent Online

It is the "match of the century" say Serbia, but when you have been as successful as Germany today's tie at Port Elizabeth is just another game. And that could be a problem.

Prior to the 2002 finals Didi Hamann put the pressure on England players, with their burden of ‘36 (now 44) years of hurt’, into perspective. He pointed out that for German players reaching the final was the bare minimum expected. Germany reached the final that year, their seventh. In the circumstances it would be easy for Germany, especially after winning their opening match 4-0, to feel they can simply tick over until reaching the quarter-finals. Thus Oliver Bierhoff, their team manager, urged the team not to be complacent yesterday. “We have not achieved anything yet,” he said. “We feel the euphoria but we have not qualified yet and we do not want our third game against Ghana to become a knockout game. We want to avoid that.”



The former Milan striker, who won 70 caps for Germany, and played in the 2002 final, added, “It would be wrong to rest on our achievements against Australia and I am sure we will lift our performance up a notch against Serbia. We just have to. We have to improve our conversion of chances. There was some carelessness against Australia. We have to be precise and unforgiving when our opponent offers us the chance."



Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has emerged as the midfield anchor in the absence of Michael Ballack, looks likely to play after suffering a minor cold triggered by the sudden and sharp drop in temperatures.



Serbia coach Raddy Antic, having seen his team lose their opening match to Ghana 1-0, has to decide whether to retain the team he believed his strongest, and which qualified, or make changes. There must be one, Alexander Lukovic, the Udinese defender, is suspended after being dismissed against Ghana. Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic, a Bosnian-born US youth international, who ultimately declared for his parents’ country, is in line to start. "Subotic will be very motivated to play well. He is a very good replacement for Lukovic,” said Antic.

What to watch for: Serbia's forwards

The Serbian coach will hope his talented offensive players, Milos Krasic, Milan Jovanovic (who is understood to be Liverpool-bound), and new Birmingham signing, the giant Nikola Zigic, show more than they did against Ghana.



“Our opponent is the team which played the best game in the first part of this World Cup,” said Antic, “while unfortunately we lost in our first game.”



The former Luton Town player and Real Madrid manager added: "We are quite conscious of the fact that we didn't play at the level we are used to in the game against Ghana. We have to be much more relaxed. Each player has to do better than he has done before. I am sure every player will manage to find the special energy needed to win against a very good opponent.



The 1.30 kick-off (local time) has caused some changes for Germany. They have had to forsake their usual breakfast of sausage, ham and cheese for carbo-loading. "It takes a bit of getting used to, having a bowl of pasta at 10 in the morning," said Bierhoff.

Probable teams

Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer (Schalke 04); Lahm (Bayern Munich), Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Badstuber (Bayern Munich); Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Khedira (VfB Stuttgart); Muller (Bayern Munich), Ozil (Werder Bremen), Podolski (Cologne); Klose (Bayern Munich).

Serbia (): Stojkovic (Sporting Lisbon); Ivanovic (Cheslea) Vidic (Manchester United), Subotic (Borussia Dortmund), Kolarov (Lazio); Krasic (CSKA Moscow), Milijas (Wolves), Stankovic (Internazionale), Jovanovic (Standard Liege); Pantelic (Ajax), Zigic (Birmingham).

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